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Posts Tagged ‘scam’

Many new gimmicks and stunts marketed at entrepreneurs now exist as ways to rise to the top of the sea of investment opportunities. While we have to admit there is an intoxicating rush from pitching your innovative venture in front of an audience, the end result usually feels more like a hangover. Investors leave with more questions than answers, and entrepreneurs are left wondering if their choice of wardrobe sealed the fate of their company. Whether it’s a trade show, mixer, or conference they’re usually marketed around the emotional value proposition of “meet real investors.”submityouridea

Just in case you weren’t paying attention, any investor worth his salt is already plugged in to a complex social network from which he or she plucks prospective deals. What makes you think you’ll actually find a reputable investor or advisor at one of these events? Oh, and you think that entry fee is paying only for the catering service? These events are run by businesses looking to make money. They don’t necessarily care if you close a deal while you’re there, only if your registration check clears. And this just in, handing a spiral bound PowerPoint to an investor in an elevator is about as effective as a guy throwing himself at a female bartender in a packed club on a Friday night.

You should also know by now that the Internet is full of charlatans, scam artists, spammers and a myriad of other people with questionable morals. And because there’s not a lot known about the investor process, entrepreneurs don’t really know whom to trust when they scour the web looking for funding. They’re always suspicious of something that’s offered for free (like a new online business plan farm) and are just waiting for the hidden fee to rear its ugly head. Free usually means you need to put in a credit card and spend the rest of your life trying to cancel a recurring charge for $19.99 a month. If you’re going to invest in outsourcing your capital raising work (which is not unreasonable) try to make sure that the approach is smart, that you are going to get the feedback you need to improve over time, and try to save the fantasy of a lottery ticket for the check out counter at 7-Eleven. internetscam

And lastly, if you happen to be sitting on the couch in the early am, with your computer in your lap, watching TV and one of those “We’ll Pay Money For Your Idea” infomercials comes on, you should probably view it the same way you do a fake ad on Saturday Night Live. Of course not every “invention” firm has bad intentions, but let’s just say there are a larger number of scam companies than those actually helping the entrepreneur. So do your homework and background checks. If after submitting your materials for consideration you’re having trouble making contact with a live and knowledgeable voice, it’s probably not worth your time.

Excerpt taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.

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Okay, taking a break from ROTFLMAO about the $1M Pepsi logo, I wanted to put something out there that has been bugging me lately. Today’s business climate has degenerated into a world of scam paranoia. At some point the greater consumer psyche (if there is such a thing) has become super saturated with over the top marketing claims, million dollar sweepstakes, and insane hucksters selling outrageous impossible stuff.

I can’t blame people for feeling like the world is one giant rip off. From the minute I wake up ($3.65 cup of coffee), gas up the tank (doing my part to help Chevron set a profit record with their “new” $3.00 gas), to parking the car ($0.75 each 20 minutes; $36 per day max), riding up the elevator (commercials on the little screen make not talking to co-workers a little more comfortable). Once I hit my desk there are no fewer than 50 email messages to sift through… selling all sorts of (ehem) enhancement medications, time shares, debt consolidation services, and online graduate degrees. The news isn’t much help. Corporate fraud is rampant, giant multi-million dollar bonus packages cashed in only a few hours before the company cashes a giant government bail out check, and then there is a string of cabinet level resignations related to tax evasion, avoidance, or just plain ignorance. Arggh!

I can see how easy it is to start to wonder if there is anyone left in business that actually offers a product for a fair price, treats their workers with respect, and makes an “honest” living? Clearly, I’m off on a rant. I realize that there are tons of legitimate businesses out there, I’m just tired of feeling like I have to start to wear a wallet chain to actually protect my wallet. (instead of trying to look like Chris Angel)

We (North) work in a business that is considered full of legendary scam artists who prey upon the hopes and dreams of the unsophisticated entrepreneurs. Or so we are led to believe… I have to wonder are all these people truly “scam artists” or are they perhaps working in a field where risk is high and the chances of success are low? Is every person who tries to raise capital and fails to do so a “scam”, or might they be great at what they do, put in tremendous amount of work and just not hit a homerun every time the walk up to the plate.

Will someone get a million dollars if they invest $19.99 per month in a website where they can post their business plan? Maybe. People in America become millionaires every single day by investing only a single dollar. It’s called the lotto and it’s not a scam, or is it? People get some value from the fantasy of winning a fortune. Are the business plan posting sites about as much fun as a fistful of lotto tickets?

Maybe what really matters is how open the process is, and how clearly the odds of success are stated to the person playing the game. I can’t imagine that many people feel that their lotto ticket was a scam when they find out that they didn’t win. Should they?

I think the hard part is trying to tell what the intentions of the business or person are when they operate in an industry that has very a low success rate. Why in this particular industry are professionals with good intentions so quickly painted with the “S” word. Raising capital is a very hard process and the competition is intense. Think about it, you are trying to convince total strangers to hand you millions of dollars. The rate of success for even the best entrepreneurs and investment bankers is extremely low. So in an industry where even the most talented can strike out, how can you know which players to put into the lineup?

Smart entrepreneurs need to look long and hard at the value that they get in return from any tool, technique, partnership, or consultant they hire to make themselves a better entrepreneur. Wise up, think clearly, and look for partners that are going to work hard with you, for you, and on your side. There are great players in this game, the trick is picking them out of the crowd.

Would you buy a watch from this guy?

Would you buy a watch from this guy?

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Pepsi, you just got Punk’d. Arnell Group, you just took the fizz out of branding.

Please excuse me while I go off on a rant. Last year, Pepsi hired Peter Arnell and his disciples to handle the redesign of their iconic red, white, and blue logo. The rumor is that Pepsi spent over $1 million on this assignment.

Umm, let’s just be happy that WE didn’t pay for it (fortunately for us, our government didn’t have to bail out the recession proof soft drink makers). Just think, they could have run a worldwide contest with every design school out there and gotten huge positive PR out of it. But instead, they turned to Arnell and his stable of “brand psychics.”

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Turns out a freelancer posted the actual logo presentation deck on the Internet for us all to witness. The deck spins that the revamped logo draws on thousands of years of design principles, the Earth’s gravitational pull and the greatest works of art to persuade people to buy the sugary drink. The document called “Breathtaking Design Strategy” is littered with historical, philosophical, scientific, and mathematical ideas dating back to 3000 B.C.

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At one point, the presentation compares “Planet Pepsi” to the Earth’s magnetic pull, with diagrams showing Pepsi as the gravitational force between the end of the aisle and the checkout stand. I kid you not. Check out some of these visuals. Straight up W.T.F.!?!?!

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It’s unfortunate, as consumers already have an elevated “bullshit radar” for brand marketing. Companies that still believe that they are in charge are dead wrong. The consumer runs the show. Respect their intelligence. Involve them. Be authentic with your words “internally” and “externally”. Arnell must have had the the Pepsi marketing brass under some sort of spell (or waterboarded them with a truck full of 2 liter bottles of Pepsi One).

It’s important to remember that brand marketing done right can be extremely valuable for any new or established venture. Smart branding can make the difference between attracting outside investment and not. It can make cash registers ring or flat out turn consumers off. It can make your brand a champ with the people or a chump in the press. Brand innovation can generate strong brand awareness, inspire action, and result in a loyal following.

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Just look at how beverage start up Jones Soda broke through using user-generated content on their labels. Pepsi shelling out $1M+ for a logo is not innovative, it represents old school Madison Avenue principles that have very little relevance today. Want value back? Then don’t hire a giant agency that has a ton of overhead, giant salaries, and talent that is past their prime & out of touch. In this economy, you need to collaborate with big thinkers than know how to do more with less.

EXTRA TIP: Before pulling the trigger on an outside vendor, make sure you thoroughly vet them beforehand (or at least google them with the word scam after their name. Psst…this isn’t Arnell’s first violation.

This is the second time Pepsi’s logo has drawn some unfavorable press. When it debuted just before the inauguration, consumers thought it looked eerily similar to President Barack Obama’s “O” campaign logo.*

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*Sidenote: there’s a great blog called SemiObama which looks closely at the visual representations of Obama and unpacks the various cultural, religious, national, and political icons and symbols surrounding him that are used to evoke meaning and emotional reaction.

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